My boyfriend recently celebrated his 29th birthday and I planned a homemade beer dinner for him and I. We have only attended one beer dinner in the past – but it was amazing and something we want to do more often. I decided a DIY approach would be a really exciting chance for me to improve my cooking skills (which are not the best), learn about beer pairings, and have a fun night of drinks without the cost of a Lyft home.
Before making this meal, I knew very little about beer and food pairings and, honestly, I still don’t know much. I could guess what types of beers would not taste the best with certain foods and I’ll definitely know something isn’t right if I’m currently consuming it – but knowing the best way to enhance flavor profiles in a beer through the food it’s paired with is not where I thrive. I would love to learn more about it and I plan to continue research and maybe give another beer dinner a try in the future. For now, I’ll tell ya what I learned from my first try.
I did a little digging through the good ole’ internet to find some sort of guide for pairings. Because I found a lot of conflicting information – I basically just picked which beers and which foods I knew my boyfriend would like best. He loves IPAs and APAs, so those were clearly going to make an appearance. I chose foods based off of those styles and I chose beers based off of the food I had chosen for the remaining courses.
Things got a little confusing once I had to choose what specific recipes to make. I found a recipe for bacon wrapped lit’l smokies and it looked delicious! (http://momsneedtoknow.com/bacon-wrapped-smokies-brown-sugar-glaze/#_a5y_p=1255172).
I knew that pork pairs well with a pale ale – but I wasn’t sure what to make of the brown sugar sprinkled over the smokies. The 4 Hands City Wide ended up tasting great alongside those tasty little dogs, but I realized one thing about beer pairings: I should probably be choosing the most prominent flavor, in the food, to base my pairings off. Thankfully, the brown sugar wasn’t overpowering and the taste of the bacon shined through – but I’m certainly glad I made that realization for all beer pairings I make in the future.
As far as the food itself – I would highly recommend following this woman’s recipe – it was incredible and something I plan to make for parties from now on! My only piece of advice would be to take them out half way through cooking and move things around a bit…I definitely set off the smoke alarm.
I chose a classic Caesar salad for the second course. Thankfully this involved absolutely no cooking and very minimal prep work. I found that a Hefeweizen pairs well with this salad – the man at the liquor store recommended the Schlafly Hefeweizen as a very traditional flavored beer. It complemented the salad perfectly and I was excited to find a Schlafly beer that I enjoyed. I have tried a small selection of other Schlafly beers and never particularly enjoyed them – I was reminded that you should not give up on a brewery just because you do not gravitate to the select few you have tried.
The third course consisted of ribs, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob. I had originally planned on making burgers because I read that IPAs pair best with beef. I decided to switch to ribs because I do not know how to use the grill and cooking meat on the stove top intimidates me (I always worry about over or under-cooking it). I found pre-prepped ribs at the store and was able to cook them in the oven which made me far less worried about food poisoning and allowed me to time all items in the main course perfectly.
My boyfriend and I recently moved to the St. Louis area, so I wanted to choose all St. Louis breweries. But, when I went into our local Friar Tuck’s, I saw his favorite beer and couldn’t pass it up – Surly Todd the Axe Man. I decided including his favorite beer was worth losing my St. Louis theme. Overall, the third course was my least favorite – I just found it lacking some excitement. Everything tasted great and paired well, it just was not as interesting as the other courses. My boyfriend is the cook in this house and, when we do another DIY beer dinner in the future, he will be making some more interesting meals to pair.
I ended the night with a semi-homemade cookie dough ice cream cake. Basically, I bought a pound cake, cut it in half, slapped some cookie dough ice cream in there, put the top back on, and frosted it. It sounds very simple but it was not. I truly developed a respect for cake decorators. Even though it looks like it was decorated by a small child – I’m still pretty proud of how it turned out and it tasted great!
I read that a hoppy pilsner pairs great with cookie dough ice cream and tried to find one, but I wasn’t sure how to find something so specific. I ended up choosing 4 Hands City Wide Pils because I knew my boyfriend and I already loved the City Wide APA – so why not! It ended up complementing the cake very well and I may have found one of my new favorite beers (for the time-being…my favorites change often).
[It says “happy (early) birthday”…my boyfriend thought it said “learly”………]
Overall, the night was a wild success. Everything tasted great, the beers were awesome, and it was nice being able to get a bit tipsy at a beer dinner and not have to pay for a Lyft home. This is definitely something I plan to do again as I learn more and more about pairing beers.